Jake Nickell

Jake Nickell

Founder/CEO


Threadless

Chicago, IL USA


I've been lucky-I've done pretty well-but even if I'd been doing this for the past 14 years and making just enough to get by, I'd still consider it a success.

Videos

Videos

By Roadtrip Nation

Jake Nickell

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Jake Nickell HighlightInterview Highlight
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InterviewThe Interview
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Finding Time to FocusWeb Exclusive
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Notable ArtistWeb Exclusive
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Struggles and FedexWeb Exclusive
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T-Shirt DesignInterview Excerpt
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Milestones

Milestones

My road in life took a while to figure out.
Taught himself how to build websites when he was 14, but kind of "burnt out" on that after he got stuck making basic sites for local businesses.
Was into art and math/computer science, and he had choose between the two when he was picking a college.
Decided to choose art school but worked as a web developer on the side.
Entered a t-shirt design into a competition and won; realized how amazing that felt and started Threadless that day.
Had been spending most of his free time browsing a global art forum online; offered to start printing artists' work on t-shirts.
People were interested, but Jake didn't even really know what he was doing; had to call screenprinters, figure out how to make his offer work.
Wasn't financially successful for the first two years because he put every dime back into printing more shirts, but that paid off in the long haul.
Loves that Threadless fosters a community where artists can show pride in their work, know that 5,000 people all over the world are wearing their prints.
Keep following my journey
Education

Education

highschool
High School
undergrad
Bachelor
Web Page, Digital/Multimedia and Information Resources Design
The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago
Career

Career

Founder/CEO

I grew an online community of artists into a multi-million dollar e-commerce phenomenon.

Career Roadmap

Roadmap
My work combines:
My work combines:
Design
Design
Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship
Being Creative
Being Creative

Day to Day

I spend most of my time building online tools for artists to share and monetize their work.

Skills & Qualities Beyond School

I think it's great to pursue formal education but it's even more important to take initiative to learn things on your own outside of school.

Advice for Getting Started

Here's the first step for everyone

Always have a personal project on the side that you are working on. It keeps you distracted, but also might lead to something incredible and unexpected.

Hurdles

Hurdles

The Noise I Shed

From Society in General:

"You are just a scam. "

We ran our business so poorly to begin with that everyone from credit card companies to FedEx thought we had to be a scam. Admittedly, we made huge mistakes early on to warrant this because we genuinely didn't know what we were doing. It's all been a learning process. Learning from those early mistakes has made us stronger.

Challenges I Overcame

Rapid Growth
Rapid Growth

We experienced a period of explosive growth really early on in the development of the company that we weren't prepared for. It all happened organically which is great, but at the time it was scary because we didn't know how to keep up with ourselves.

Financial
Financial

We were running on a shoestring budget to start out with which made keeping up with our high demand difficult. We ran into a few problems with debt racking up because we weren't following proper procedures.